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Chicago Bulls vs. Portland Trail Blazers Preview

Can the Blazers somehow win two in a row?

Portland Trail Blazers v Chicago Bulls Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Chicago Bulls (34-38) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (32-40)

Just when it seemed like the Blazers might have to wait until Fall for another win they rise up and take out the Utah Jazz on Wednesday by the score of 127-115. Increased minutes seemed to suit Trendon Watford and Shaedon Sharpe, with Trendon scoring 21 and Shaedon going for 24. They both are surely going to get big minutes again, this time against a better defense and probably a better overall team.

The Chicago Bulls roll into Moda Center with some optimism for both the present and future. Winners of five of their last seven, they’ve notched wins recently against the likes of the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets. Sitting in 10th place in the East, the Bulls need to go on a run if they want to keep playing basketball after April 9th. With a manageable schedule and renewed confidence you might not want to bet against them.

Chicago Bulls vs. Portland Trail Blazers - Friday, March 24 - 7:00 p.m. PT

How to watch on TV: Root Sports Plus, NBA League Pass

Blazers injuries: Justise Winslow (out), Ibou Badji (out), Jerami Grant (out), Anfernee Simons (out), Jusuf Nurkic (doubtful), Damian Lillard (questionable), Nassir Little (probable)

Bulls injuries: Lonzo Ball (out), DeMar DeRozan (out), Alex Caruso (questionable)

SBN Affiliate: Blog A Bull

The Matchup

  • Is the tank now absolutely on? Early Thursday afternoon it seemed that Jerami Grant and Anfernee Simons would be game-time decisions, or close to it. When the injury report came out a few hours later they were both listed as “out”. With Jusuf Nurkic and Damian Lillard also making an appearance on the report it kind of feels like the Blazers might have turned up the tanking dial a bit. The smart money is that Dame will play but don’t be surprised to see a certain center from Troutdale in the starting lineup. If the tanking dial isn’t quite set to boil it’s certainly seems to be on heavy simmer... for now.
  • At least one of the teams will play defense. The Bulls have the 5th best defensive rating in the NBA. The Blazers... don’t. Chicago is also top five in the NBA in defensive rebound percentage, opponents second chance points, opponents fast break points and opponents points in the paint. The Blazers... aren’t. As frustrating as Portland can be at their offensive end, they are still respectably good at scoring. With some high-energy guys likely to get lots of minutes like they did against Utah, it should be fun to see how well they do against the stout Bulls defense.
  • 3 is greater than 2. One thing the Bulls don’t do at all is shoot the three ball. Chicago is last in the NBA in both attempts and makes from beyond the arc. They aren’t terrible when they do take them, landing at 14th in the league in percentage at 36.2%. It just isn’t a critical part of their game. If the Blazers can manage a good shooting night from deep they might just give themselves a chance whether fans or the front office want them to have one.

What Others Are Saying

Defense is leading the way for the Bulls and Will Gotlieb of CHGO is giving a lot of credit to Billy Donovan.

Billy Donovan has gotten more than the sum of his parts on that end of the floor and it’s not just poor opponent shooting covering up structural flaws. They believe in their ability to send help to wall off the paint and recover on the back side with precise rotations and as a result, they are competing with the best teams and playing their best basketball at the right time.

Joe Coley of the Chicago Sun-Times is counting wins for the Bulls with their “easy” remaining schedule.

The Trail Blazers had lost six straight until they upset Utah on Wednesday, but since the All-Star Break have been one of a handful of teams in complete tanking mode. Yes, the Bulls have a history of shaky performances in the Pacific Northwest, and Damian Lillard has been a Bulls killer, often showcasing “Dame Time’’ in full effect. It’s hard to see the Bulls slipping in the first of a three-game West Coast trip, however, especially when the opposing team doesn’t have winning games atop the agenda.

@BullsBlogger of Blog A Bull isn’t buying stock in his Bulls, but he’s going along for the ride.

What was unexpected has been how outright excellent the Bulls are playing since adding Patrick Beverley off the scrap heap and onto the rotation.

Looking at every team’s last 12 games (Bulls are 8-4 with PatBev), the Bulls are 2nd in net rating (first - well ahead - is the Sixers, and we just beat ‘em!), being 7th in offense and NUMBER ONE in defense. If you’re looking to pop a balloon in that, and I do, you can throw out that outlier 50-ish point blowout of the Nets: in the last eleven games instead it’s 13th on offense and 5th in defense to put them 4th in net rating